Newspaper Sections

Special Series


About SSFP

Space Science

A Star is Born: The Life Cycle of Stars

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 16

Every single birth of a star in the sky begins in an immense cloud of gas, dust, and debris. These colorful clouds are called nebulae, cosmic wonders that swirl around space undisturbed for millions of years.

In the beginning stages of a star’s formation, many occurrences in space can cause a nebula to warp and change its structure. As a result, it will collapse on its own gravity, shrink, and spin faster until it leaves a hot and bright core called a protostar. After the young star is formed, it cannot be seen immediately due to debris surrounding it. Thousands of years later, the star will be able to gather enough heat to engulf anything around it. Finally, when temperatures reach about 27 million degrees, the atoms at the core stick together to emit huge amounts of energy. Thus, lighting the star.

Often, stars are categorized by their mass: lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight. [Read More]

Webb Space Telescope Sends New Images to Scientists on Planet Earth

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

The James Space Webb Telescope launched on December 25th, 2021. It is the newest and most powerful space telescope. It has been sending images and data to scientists on Earth since early summer 2022.

This telescope helps scientists study information and data from our universe's earliest galaxies and stars. NASA scientists have been discussing the image they received of the Southern Ring planetary nebula. The image depicts a gas that surrounds a dying star. Researchers found the image fascinating, particularly since this is what our own sun could look like in five billion years. They also report that the star is pushing out its outer layers which include oxygen and carbon that could help feed other space objects. This happens when a star is dying and a new star is coming to life.

This telescope sits 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and has allowed us to see the most distant galaxies we have ever observed. The Webb telescope has made many other discoveries. It has photographed a large variety of early galaxies that are estimated to date up to 280 million years after the Big Bang. It also discovered a younger area named NGC 3324 which shows “cosmic cliffs” and stars being created. NGC 3324 is about 8,500 light years away from Earth. This telescope has also found a massive gas exoplanet named WASP-96b. The telescope data allows scientists to analyze and investigate what seems to be water in its atmosphere. [Read More]

First Plant Successfully Sprouts in Lunar Soil

by Daniel Li, age 15

The first seeds to ever sprout in lunar soil poked their heads above moon dirt at the University of Florida in May. Decades of research and experimentation led to this breakthrough which marks the first time terrestrial plants have grown in extra-terrestial soil. It also offers hope that astronauts will one day be able to grow food on the moon.

Three scientists from the University of Florida filled 12 pots of soil from the space expeditions Apollo 11, 12, and 17; 4 pots for each trip’s sample. They chose to use thale cress, a small flowering weed, due to its ability to grow in small amounts of dirt, which was important because NASA was frugal when providing the samples. Sixteen additional pots were filled with volcanic material from Earth, which is often used to mimic lunar soil. These pots were treated with the same nutrients and light levels to ensure unbiased results. Aside from these pots, there was also a control group of plants grown in soil samples from Earth.

The seeds did sprout, but compared to the control group, seedlings were not nearly as successful. The healthiest plants were smaller than they should have been, while the weakest were smaller still and had a sickly purple tint, a sign of plant stress. This is most likely due to the sharpness of the soil, caused by high amounts of metallic iron (compared to the oxidized iron in the Earth’s soil), and glass shards formed by lunar surface collisions. The soil also lacked many nutrients that plants require to grow such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. [Read More]

There’s a Chance the Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy Is Actually a Wormhole

by Allison Torres, age 14

Writers that love science fiction like the idea of wormholes. Go in a wormhole, and it might transfer you to another place in time.

Physicists have taken the time to study and talk about what it might actually look like inside a black hole. There could be a wormhole in the middle of our galaxy. One way scientists are able to confirm that wormholes exist would be to go through a black hole and see if there is a hidden bridge. Although, this would be a rare occurrence, since the Milky Way is more of a door than a dead end. They could also probably figure out if there is any presence of existing life on the other side.

Researchers have found that orbits of stars, such as S2, have been orbiting a giant black hole for years. Scientists say that if this star or other stars feel existence on the other side of a black hole then the star would perform a peculiar dance. It could begin to move and jump in unusual ways that signify a possible wormhole. Astronomers are planning to measure the orbit of the star S2 so they can narrow it down. [Read More]

Webb Space Telescope Sends New Images to Scientists on Planet Earth

by Ashley Mercado, age 13

NASA has finally revealed the first set of beautiful images taken from a new space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. The first picture from the Space Telescope was a plethora of distant galaxies that go deeper than scientists have ever seen. NASA says the new Webb Telescope will eventually replace the Hubble Telescope. Some of Webb’s images show areas of the universe Hubble has already studied, and some show areas Hubble could not reach.

Webb used infrared light which allowed scientists to obtain a clearer images and show places they have not yet studied. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “Every image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of the universe that we’ve never seen before.” In the new images, astronomers are looking for two nebulae: the Southern Ring Nebula and the Carina Nebula. They are also looking for five galaxies, known as Stephan’s Quintet, as well as the recently discovered gas planet called WASP-96b.

The strong telescope launched last December from French Guiana in South America and reached its final destination one million miles away in January. The telescope contains many requirements that must be met it in order to take pictures. For example, the telescope uses mirrors to focus its view on spots in space, so these mirrors have to be precisely aligned to function. [Read More]

Will Humans Travel Through Wormholes?

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 15

Researchers have been intrigued by an interesting new concept involving wormholes, the event of space bending and creating two linked holes in different areas of space. This concept suggests that when a wormhole starts shrinking under certain conditions, it would be possible to quickly send a message through it.

Through a simulation, Ben Jain, a physicist at a college in Massachusetts, determined that the mission probably would be aiming to send a message out of the wormhole with an automated machine, not by a manned mission through the wormhole.

This message could provide insightful information on wormholes. The message would contain valuable video that could detail the interior of wormholes and give precious evidence of how these anomalies function. Using this understanding, scientists could, hopefully, create wormholes for humanity to travel throughout the universe without much time constraint. [Read More]

Vast Oort Cloud Surrounds our Solar System

by Max Moreno, age 10

The Oort Cloud is a vast area full of billions of comets and icy bodies that surrounds the solar system. The Oort Cloud has developed into a shell-like structure that began about 4.5 billion years ago. It is a spherical layer that extends far beyond our solar system that astronomers just recently began studying.

Since the cloud is so far away from the Sun, it is easily affected by any object that passes by it. For example, if a star or comet passes by, their gravitational pulls could possibly pull objects from the Oort Cloud. Some astronomers believe that the Oort Cloud was first formed closer to the Sun and over time it was pushed out by our gas giants such as Jupiter, Saturn and others.

Similar to the Oort Cloud, is the Kuiper Belt, which is a disk-like ring that consists of comets and icy bodies that extends from Pluto to the far edge of our solar system. The Kuiper Belt resides inside the Oort Cloud and scientists continue to study more about the relationship between these celestial objects. The Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud both contain comets and asteroids. Some scientists believe that some of the comets in our solar system have come from either the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt. [Read More]

Mars is Volcanically Active, Scientists Suspect

by Daniel Garduno Martinez, age 11

Many scientists that study Mars have come to the conclusion that Mars is still volcanically active. Scientists, using information gathered from NASA’s 2018 InSight lander, have found traces of magma flowing deep under the planet's surface.

Apart from volcanoes, Mars is known for its marsquakes; just like Earth has earthquakes. These marsquakes were detected by tools used by the InSight lander that record seismic waves. Thousands of these marsquakes, some strong, and some weak were registered in a particular spot on Mars, known as Cerberus Fossae. The high-frequency marsquakes that have been experienced were not as familiar to scientists compared to the low-frequency quakes, as they are more similar to what is seen in earthquakes on Earth.

The previous theory regarding Mars was that it, like the Moon, slowly began cooling with time. This theory is partially correct, but new research suggests that, if it were true, marsquakes would occur from around all of Mars. The magma flowing many miles under the surface may be the cause of marsquakes. [Read More]

New Count Reveals Jupiter has Most Moons in Solar System

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

Astronomers discovered 12 new moons in Jupiter’s orbit in 2021 and 2022. That discovery bumped up Jupiter’s moon count to 92 moons, which is more than any other planet in our solar system. Previously, Saturn had the record for the most confirmed moons at 83.

Jupiter’s new moons have been added to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center’s list of moons. Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, who was one of the people to discover the moons, has also participated in 70 other moon findings around Jupiter.

The 12 moons were found using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and range from 0.06 miles to two miles in diameter. According to Sheppard, only around six of these moons are big enough to be named. This is because named moons must be at least a mile in diameter. [Read More]

How Will the Universe End?

by Abigail Gezae, age 10

Nobody knows the fate of the universe, but there are many possibilities. For example, dark energy might become so strong that it overpowers all forces including gravity. If this happens, the expansion of the universe will grow faster and faster as it is pushed apart without any limit. This theory is called the “Big Rip.”

The “Big Rip” results in galaxies, stars, planets, and all life being torn apart, but it’s also possible that the universe just keeps expanding. If dark energy stays indefinitely the same force as it is today, space will keep growing and may never come to an end. Additionally, another possible end for our universe lies trillions of years in the future.

Eventually, after the universe expands too much, no heat will be able to be spread and the temperature could drop to its lowest possible point. This will be known as the “Big Chill,” meaning no life could survive. [Read More]

What's So Special About Earth?

by Ian Kosharek, age 10

Earth is a planet consisting of many essential layers and interesting features. These unique aspects of Earth make it a foundation for life and allow for the survival of species on the planet.

Earth is made of four distinct layers: the outer crust, inner crust, outer core, and the core. The outer crust is made up of rock and dirt and is the layer humans live on. The inner crust is the mantle which is made out of thick rock. Just beneath the mantle is the outer core. This region consists of hot iron and is responsible for lava that sometimes erupts out of volcanoes. The innermost layer is the core which contains the same elements as the outer core.

Outside of Earth, the planet also has relationships with the moon! The moon orbits Earth and if you take a close look, on clear nights you can see the moon change! The moon changes based on the positioning of reflections from the sun. On Earth, a full moon is only visible when the sunlit side of the moon faces Earth. Additionally, did you know that the tides and waves on Earth are created from gravitational pulls from the moon? [Read More]

Scientist Watch as Jupiter Comes Close to Planet Earth

by Allison Torres, age 14

Earlier this year, people were able to get a glimpse of Jupiter's rings and moons with only a telescope or binoculars. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and in September it passed closer to Earth than it has in 59 years.

Jupiter is at opposition, meaning Earth is halfway between the planet and the sun, with about 367 million miles between Earth and Jupiter. At its farthest point, Earth and Jupiter are about 600 million miles apart. Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston, said the planet would rise around sunset and look pearly white to the naked eye.

Three to four of Jupiter’s moons could also potentially be seen, one named Europa. Trina L. Ray is a science manager for the Europa Clipper mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Since I am working on a spacecraft that we are going to send to the Jupiter system to explore Europa, I'm always excited to see Jupiter and even Europa with my own eyes,” she said. Many scientists were excited to see Europa, as they believe there could be life on Jupiter's moon, according to “The Guardian.” [Read More]

¿Qué es tan especial de la Tierra?

por Ian Kosharek, 10 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La Tierra es un planeta que consiste de muchas capas esenciales y características interesantes. Estos aspectos únicos de la Tierra hacen una fundación para la vida y permiten la supervivencia de las especies en el planeta.

La Tierra está formada por cuatro capas distintas: la corteza exterior, la corteza interior, el núcleo exterior y el núcleo. La corteza exterior está compuesta de roca y tierra y es la capa en la que viven los humanos. La corteza interna es el manto que está hecho de roca denso. Justo debajo del manto se encuentra el núcleo exterior. Esta región consiste en hierro candente y es responsable de la lava que a veces brota de los volcanes. La capa más interna se llama el núcleo, contiene los mismos elementos que el núcleo externo.

¡Fuera de la Tierra, el planeta también tiene conexiones con la luna! ¡La luna orbita alrededor de la Tierra y si miras de cerca, en las noches claros puedes ver el cambio de la luna! La luna cambia según el posicionamiento de los reflejos del sol. En la Tierra, la luna llena solo es visible cuando el lado de la luna iluminado por el sol mira hacia la Tierra. ¿Además, sabías que las mareas y las olas en la Tierra están creados a partir de la atracción gravitacional de la luna? [Read More]

Eerie Double Aurora Lights Up Northern Sky

by Emily Rodriguez Lima, age 13

Two different auroras have appeared together at the same time with colors resembling a watermelon: green on the bottom and red on top. This phenomenon was seen by amateur astronomer Alan Dyers. Dyers was outside his house when he saw a beautiful display of the Northern Lights up in the sky. He took out his camera to record this unique image; his recording is the most complete recording of this special aurora.

This aurora differs from other Northern Lights, not only because of its unusual colors, but because of how these colors are made. The color green is a standard aurora, which comes from protons raining down into Earth's magnetic field. This causes the protons to bump into atoms and electrons.

The red part of the aurora has already been seen in other auroras, however astronomers do not know how it is made. The color red of this aurora is new to both astronomers and scientists and is believed to come from magnetic fields that heat up in certain parts of the Earth’s atmosphere, which can knock some particles around. They believe that when electron rain appears, it triggers the red aurora. [Read More]

Would You Want to Live on Neptune?

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

Neptune, the smallest out of all outer planets, is known for its blue color. Methane is the reason for its color. Neptune has less then four percent of methane within its atmosphere.

Neptune is very far from Earth, approximately 2.5 billion miles away. Pluto is usually farther from the sun than Neptune, but once every 248 years, Pluto crosses in front of Neptune. The planet has enormous storms, but they don’t last as long as Jupiter's great Red Spot.

Neptune takes 165 Earth years to orbit around the sun. Due to the planet's orbit being almost a perfect circle, its seasons are all of even length. Neptune’s climate and seasons are different from Earth’s seasons. [Read More]

What Will Happen to Earth When the Sun Dies?

by Juan Esteban Palma Zuluaga, age 10

Our sun, like other stars, will die. Stars only shine as long as they have a source of energy, and eventually that gives out.

The sun converts 700 million tons of hydrogen in its core into 695 million tons of helium to create its own energy, but once all the hydrogen in its core has fused, the sun will begin to run out of fuel. When the sun dies, it will not only impact the Earth, but the entire solar system.

The sun was born about 4.6 billion years ago, it is believed the sun is about halfway through its life. In around 5 billion years, nuclear fusion will be impossible inside the sun. The sun will then run out of hydrogen in its core. When that finishes, it will convert the hydrogen in its outer layers. [Read More]

From the Big Bang to Humankind: How Life Emerged

by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

About 12 billion years ago, a big explosion, presently known as the “Big Bang,” created the universe.

The solar system we live in began to form 7.4 billion years ago. Earth was created by rock, ice, dust, and gas combining together. While forming, the Earth released an enormous amount of energy, causing the planet to heat up. For 100 million years, the components of planet Earth remained molten as they shifted into layers. Heavier minerals like iron and nickel, sank to the center and now form the dense core of the Earth, measuring 2,200 miles wide. The lighter minerals settled towards the surface of the Earth, creating its crust. The core and the crust are separated by 1,800 miles of molten rock, called the mantle. Certain lighter rocks gathered together to form “islands” or land.

Some scientists think that Earth’s crust cooled down, amino acids began to form, and over time, microscopic life emerged. Stanley Miller, a researcher from the University of Chicago showed that anyone can make amino acids just by using chemicals existing in a primitive atmosphere, water, and lightning. Amino acids are one of the basic components of life. [Read More]

Local Observatory Renamed For STEM Pioneer Jocelyn Bell Burnell — by Mariah Justice, age 17

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another,” said Greek philosopher Plato. With the renaming event on September 7 for the Bell Burnell Observatory— previously the Oscar Mayer Observatory—Madison has a new facility for cultivating the exploration of astronomy. [Read More]

Volcano Explosion Shoots Water into Space — by Theodore Morrison, age 15

A volcanic eruption that occurred in the Pacific Ocean on January 12, 2022 reserved itself a spot in history when it ejected its water vapor into space for the first time in recorded history. [Read More]

Primera planta brota con éxito en suelo lunar — por Daniel Li, 15 años

Las primeras semillas que brotaron en suelo lunar asomaron sus cabezas por encima de la tierra lunar en la Universidad de Florida en mayo. Décadas de investigación y experimentación condujeron a este avance que marca la primera vez que las plantas terrestres crecen en suelo extraterrestre. También ofrece la esperanza de que algún día los astronautas puedan cultivar alimentos en la luna. [Read More]

New Space Rover Looks for Life on Mars — by Justin Medina, age 13

In July of 2020, the NASA Jet Propulsion team launched a rover called “Perseverance” in hopes of proving whether or not life once existed on Mars. [Read More]

Pluto Is Not a Planet – It’s a Dwarf Planet — by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

Pluto is referred to as a “dwarf planet” due to its diminutive size. Pluto is only half the size of North America which is why it’s categorized as a dwarf planet. [Read More]

Japanese Scientists Discover that Saturn's Rings Will Dissipate — by Avaiana House, age 14

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System. It is known for the colorful rings surrounding it, made up of rock and icy materials. These rings consists of colors such as pink, red, brown or gray. [Read More]

Pluto: Planet or Planetesimal? — by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto was once considered the ninth planet but was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006. [Read More]

What Will it Take to Survive a Trip to Mars? — by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Mars, along with our solar system, was formed from a large spinning disk of gas and dust. Astronomers believe that this occurred about 4.6 billion years ago. Reaching Mars will be the longest journey in human history. The trip has a distance of about 225 million kilometers, with six months to arrive, and six months to return to Earth. [Read More]

Astronauts Face Bone Weakness While in Space — by Moore Vang, age 13

Astronauts may want to prepare for their next space mission by bringing exercise gear for their legs. [read more]

The International Space Station Is Retiring, What Does this Mean for Space Exploration? —
by Theodore Morrison, age 14

The International Space Station is considered a constant symbol of humanity's achievements in the fields of space science and diplomacy. Many will be shocked to learn that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has plans to retire and crash the station straight into the ocean in 2031. [read more]